Why Am I Seeing 81V At My Wall Outlet? - Electrical - DIY Chatroom Home Improvement Forum

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Old 01-26-2010, 01:47 AM   #1
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Why am I seeing 81V at my wall outlet?

(and don't answer "because you only payed 2/3 of the electric bill" ha ha)

Hi all, hoping someone can help with an odd finding I made:

Friday night, used the microwave. Saturday, Edison changed out to a "smart meter." Tonight, went to use the microwave: off, black, dead.

Measured the plug:
Hot (wide slot)-Neutral (narrow slot): 81V
Hot-ground: 33V
Neutral-ground: 117V
rather not what I expect! At least 1 other plug measures the same.

another plug, which the microwave will work on, is more what I expect:
Hot-Neutral: 117V
Hot-ground: 0V
Neutral-ground: 117V
except isn't this backwards?

The house is from 1949 and still has some 2-prong plugs. The garage power actually runs out from the house on two separate single wires and is 2-prong. Of course, some of the house was rewired at some point with 3-prong plugs (which probably I should check with that little plug-in tool, what is it called?) but maybe incompetently. There is also a light on the kitchen ceiling which randomly comes on about 3% of the time...even after I changed out the whole fixture and bulbs (?!?!?).

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Old 01-26-2010, 06:00 AM   #2
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The wide slot is the neutral, so what you measured was:

L-N: 81V
N-G: 33V
L-G: 117V

You have an open neutral. It's either in the house somewhere OR the Main Bonding Jumper is not attached at the Main Disconnect.


I would call the PoCo first.
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Old 01-26-2010, 06:02 AM   #3
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First, the long slot on an outlet is neutral, not hot, the shorter slot os hot. It does sound like you have some outlets with reversed polarity. If the voltage problems started with the change of the meter, then call POCO and have them come back. But I suspect you have other problems that need the help of a professional.
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Old 01-26-2010, 08:33 AM   #4
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If most of your circuits have normal voltage measurements (hot to neutral) all the time even when using the microwave or a hair dryer, then the problem is not with the power company part of the wires.

While you are at it, you could retorque all of the screws and set screws used to hold wires in your panel (excluding the big ones where the feed from the meter hits the main breakers, save that for an electrician).

To do this, undo a quarter of a turn then retighten, although not using tremendous force. This helps clean the connection as well. Of course, flip off each breaker before touching the screw for the hot wire connected to it. If you can, unsnap the breaker from the panel and then replace it, to clean the connection underneath where it clips onto the bus bar. If any clip on loosely, leave them off, there may be a loose connection underneath possibly requiring a new breaker or moving to another spot in the panel.
Stick to your lawn watering schedule until it really starts to pour. After the storm you have only the same number of rest days you always had and then you need to start watering again.

Last edited by AllanJ; 01-26-2010 at 08:38 AM.
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